Mold-Breaking Firm Shifts Focus to Legal Tech

It’s been said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And within the legal industry, the forward-thinking law firm Clearspire has been working its magic since 2009 by uniting attorneys from coast to coast in a secure and efficient virtual workspace.

But Clearspire’s best trick proved to be a little too good for its legal staff. After being acquired by an investment group in May, Clearspire dumped its legal services wing in order to focus solely on its proprietary information technology platform, Coral. The plan is to make Coral the indispensible tool for the law firm of the future.

Clearspire was always meant to be that firm. By eliminating the need for posh office space and hefty partner salaries, it promised to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with top firms while undercutting them on price. And it appeared to be making good on that promise; the firm announced plans to add as many as 100 new mobile attorneys just last year.

But according to a report in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, general counsel at the companies Clearspire was courting were hesitant to walk away from the established law firms they knew and trusted, even though they were excited about the new capacities Coral would introduce.

“The response we got was, ‘We love your model, we really love your platform, but what we were not particularly craving was another law firm,’” said Mark Cohen, co-founder and former managing director of Clearspire’s legal services division.

The move by Clearspire’s new owners demonstrates that while the practice of law is changing rapidly, time-tested values like trust, loyalty and legacy still drive client decisions. And even though the dog-eat-dog nature of the business continues to pose daunting challenges for newcomers, there is tremendous opportunity for any company with a vision to bring disruption within the industry.

This latest chapter in Clearspire’s story is both a cautionary tale of the value of practicing Great Law and an affirmation of the findings of Law2023, which reported that technological innovations will initially cut into the bottom lines of law firms. But before long, some of those firms will fine-tune their technologies in a way that places them in a league of their own, allowing them to return to premium billing in the future era of law.